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Old 05-19-2014, 08:44 PM   #1
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Lets Talk Aluminum

I've been seeing more aluminum aftermarket parts lately for weight savings. I like the idea.

I don't really care about MPG but I know heavy bumpers/armor sag the suspension and have a negative impact on braking, handling and acceleration. I know, I know, braking and handling aren't exactly Wrangler strengths. But why make it worse if avoidable.

I love the Rampage front recovery bumper but 130 lbs! I'm sure it's tough as nails but man, all that weight hanging off the front even before a winch.

I was looking at the Rockhard 4x4 aluminum front bumper w/ winch mount. I wondered if anyone has installed one and if they had any feedback? I searched but couldn't find anything.

Pros: weight; won't rust (I'm in Wisconsin - lots of salt in winter); stronger than stock plastic bumper.

Cons: cost $$; not as strong as steel

I noticed some aluminum skid plates too. Just curious what you all think about that vs. steel. I'm sure not as strong as steel but in the case of a plate to cover oil pan and manual transmission, it would be better than what's there now (no skid). Anyone have any experience?

Rock Hard 4X4 RH5005 - Rock Hard 4x4 Parts Full Width Front Bumper for 07-14 Jeep® Wrangler & Wrangler Unlimited JK - Quadratec
Rock Hard 4X4 RH6003 - Rock Hard 4x4 Parts Oil Pan, Transmission & Catalytic Converter Skid Plate for 07-14 Jeep® Wrangler & Wrangler Unlimited JK with Short Arm Suspension - Quadratec
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Old 05-19-2014, 09:05 PM   #2
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The problem with aluminum is that it scratches more easily. Other than that strncht is the same depending on the thickness.


That bumper looks nice!

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Old 05-19-2014, 09:17 PM   #3
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I'm more concerned that aluminum in general is weaker against fatigue than steel. If any part of the bumper flexes repeatedly, it's going to fall apart right there. If designed right, it should not be an issue, but it requires some attention.

Generally though it's the same as any bumper - you need to find someone gullible enough to buy it first, see what they say.
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Old 05-19-2014, 09:38 PM   #4
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I would say it depends on your usage. If you gonna be bashing it into stuff all the time then go with steel skids and bumper. If its for looks and the occasional ooooopsss then you should be ok with aluminum. I have an aluminum River Raider oil pan skid, but I knew I wouldent be banging into it every weekend or anything its just there for the accidental stump or log covered in snow that I didnt see, so for me the advantages of aluminum prevailed.
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Old 05-19-2014, 09:52 PM   #5
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A properly made/treated aluminum bumper can be just as strong as steel and can certainly deal with repeated flexing without any problems (ever seen how much flex there is in an aluminum boat.. or planes...?)

It all depends on what alloy they use, how the material is worked/handled and treated.

I'm not sure I'd want to be the first to bite though ;-)
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Old 05-20-2014, 12:10 AM   #6
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Big problem with aluminum is it's just as strong as steel by weight. Heavily touted. An aluminum bumper the same SiZE as a steel one will be much weaker and lighter. An aluminum bumper the same strength as a steel one would be huge. Light but to big to be practical. Aluminum would make a crappy bumper.
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Old 05-20-2014, 07:34 AM   #7
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The 'trick' with aluminum in an application like this is better engineering. It would require more gussets to keep the bulk down and the strength up. I'm sure one could engineer an aluminum bumper that's as strong as steel but not excessively bulky however it would cost more to build due to complexity.

Kaiser aluminum makes aluminum armor plating currently in use on Humvees, planes, etc. A lot has to due with the alloy and treatment, which again raises cost.

I doubt that anyone who's manufacturing bumpers for JK's is going much more than just swapping the materials used and hoping for the best.

EDIT: found the US mil spec for al armor plate. 1.5" of aluminum armor can stop a .50 cal AP round at 1955fps. Increases to 3" (roughly) at 3000fps. That's pretty impressive IMO.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:00 AM   #8
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Commodore, Great looking bumper. Don't be misled by anyone who doesn't understand the strength of aluminum. I have a background in metal fabrication and have used it in some extreme applications. I am also a retired Field Artillery Officer (Army) and can attest to the aluminum used in our weapon systems an battle ready equipment. Trust me.... we soldiers try to break everything we touch. LOL
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:01 AM   #9
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Commodore, Great looking bumper. Don't be misled by anyone who doesn't understand the strength of aluminum. I have a background in metal fabrication and have used it in some extreme applications. I am also a retired Field Artillery Officer (Army) and can attest to the aluminum used in our weapon systems an battle ready equipment. Trust me.... we soldiers try to break everything we touch. LOL
I think the question is would bumper manufacturers use the proper alloys, heat treat and in general handle the material correctly. I have doubts about that.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:35 AM   #10
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I don't see any problem using aluminum for either bumpers or skids. Yes, there are design considerations, but it is a lot stronger than steel lb for lb and you can double the material thickness and still have something a third lighter than using steel.

I'm going to guess just about everything available in the aftermarket for Jeep use will either be 5052 or 6061 aluminum alloys, and both are easy to weld. For bumpers and skids, 6061 is quite a bit stronger but for fuel tanks 5052 is easier to bend up.

If you drive someplace where road salt is common, don't think aluminum doesn't corrode. It will pit very quickly if not protected with something.

McMaster-Carr has some good summary info:

McMaster-Carr

Would I use aluminum bumpers? You bet. I'm planning on an aluminum replacement for the rattle box Rock Slide Engineering steel version on my JK and already have all kinds of aluminum pieces my 3B.

Belly skid-6061


Exhaust skids-6061


Hood-5052


Filler garage-5052


Tire/door carrier-5052 and 6061


In short, the stuff will work just about anywhere if properly designed, will be stronger than steel, and lighter in weight-all the same attributes that make aluminum the near universal choice for aircraft material-at least before the arrival of carbon fiber. I'm a big believer in light is right. Especially in a Jeep, the lighter you can build them, the better they work off road, and you get a gift of better fuel economy in the process.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:51 AM   #11
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Genright has been using aluminum for years. Not sure why there is so much doubt here. The RH stuff looks new to me so they may still be learning what does and does not work... Their other stuff lives up to their name so i would not be overly concerned about quality.
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Old 05-20-2014, 04:46 PM   #12
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Commodore, I called RH today and spoke with the owner. He is a solid dude and shared a ton of information. He said that almost half of his aluminum bumpers are being ordered with towing eyelets. That bumper is plenty strong. Pretty sure you will like it. Gonna order one myself now.
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Old 05-20-2014, 06:53 PM   #13
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Commodore, I called RH today and spoke with the owner. He is a solid dude and shared a ton of information. He said that almost half of his aluminum bumpers are being ordered with towing eyelets. That bumper is plenty strong. Pretty sure you will like it. Gonna order one myself now.
Was his name James? He is a professional in all aspects. Also has an awesome family, We have spent some time with them. Can't go wrong with RH.
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Old 05-20-2014, 07:35 PM   #14
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Commodore, I called RH today and spoke with the owner. He is a solid dude and shared a ton of information. He said that almost half of his aluminum bumpers are being ordered with towing eyelets. That bumper is plenty strong. Pretty sure you will like it. Gonna order one myself now.
HE = Rock Hard I presume? Nice to know there are good al bumpers being made.. going to have to add this to the list of maybe future stuff.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:44 PM   #15
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I would say it depends on your usage. If you gonna be bashing it into stuff all the time then go with steel skids and bumper. If its for looks and the occasional ooooopsss then you should be ok with aluminum. I have an aluminum River Raider oil pan skid, but I knew I wouldent be banging into it every weekend or anything its just there for the accidental stump or log covered in snow that I didnt see, so for me the advantages of aluminum prevailed.
Really more for the occasional ooopps as you say.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:51 PM   #16
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Thanks everyone for the great responses! This has been on my mind and I knew I could count on WF members for some good thoughts. Hopefully others will find the thread useful too.
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Old 05-20-2014, 09:51 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Commodore Perry View Post
I've been seeing more aluminum aftermarket parts lately for weight savings. I like the idea.

I don't really care about MPG but I know heavy bumpers/armor sag the suspension and have a negative impact on braking, handling and acceleration. I know, I know, braking and handling aren't exactly Wrangler strengths. But why make it worse if avoidable.

I love the Rampage front recovery bumper but 130 lbs! I'm sure it's tough as nails but man, all that weight hanging off the front even before a winch.

I was looking at the Rockhard 4x4 aluminum front bumper w/ winch mount. I wondered if anyone has installed one and if they had any feedback? I searched but couldn't find anything.

Pros: weight; won't rust (I'm in Wisconsin - lots of salt in winter); stronger than stock plastic bumper.

Cons: cost $$; not as strong as steel

I noticed some aluminum skid plates too. Just curious what you all think about that vs. steel. I'm sure not as strong as steel but in the case of a plate to cover oil pan and manual transmission, it would be better than what's there now (no skid). Anyone have any experience?

Rock Hard 4X4 RH5005 - Rock Hard 4x4 Parts Full Width Front Bumper for 07-14 Jeep® Wrangler & Wrangler Unlimited JK - Quadratec
Rock Hard 4X4 RH6003 - Rock Hard 4x4 Parts Oil Pan, Transmission & Catalytic Converter Skid Plate for 07-14 Jeep® Wrangler & Wrangler Unlimited JK with Short Arm Suspension - Quadratec
Attachment 1119530
Im a huge fan of aluminum parts, especially on a jeep to minimize weight, but never on the front. The front is steel only for me. I want maximum strength. BTW, the Rampage bumper without winch and winch plate is only 85lbs, not 130. The protection of steel is worth it to me over aluminum.
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Old 05-20-2014, 09:53 PM   #18
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The 'trick' with aluminum in an application like this is better engineering. It would require more gussets to keep the bulk down and the strength up. I'm sure one could engineer an aluminum bumper that's as strong as steel but not excessively bulky however it would cost more to build due to complexity.

Kaiser aluminum makes aluminum armor plating currently in use on Humvees, planes, etc. A lot has to due with the alloy and treatment, which again raises cost.

I doubt that anyone who's manufacturing bumpers for JK's is going much more than just swapping the materials used and hoping for the best.

EDIT: found the US mil spec for al armor plate. 1.5" of aluminum armor can stop a .50 cal AP round at 1955fps. Increases to 3" (roughly) at 3000fps. That's pretty impressive IMO.
Correct. Aluminum needs a lot of skill to make it effective, with bends, knurls, etc. As far as aluminum skids go, the only ones I have seen perform are the nemesis skids, but the price is insane.
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:10 AM   #19
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You should check out the aluminum skids and bumpers here. I know they do a ton of testing and such on their parts.

http://www.savvyoffroad.com
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Old 05-21-2014, 08:43 AM   #20
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HE = Rock Hard I presume? Nice to know there are good al bumpers being made.. going to have to add this to the list of maybe future stuff.
ack, I meant RH = Rock Hard?
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:39 AM   #21
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Rock Hard. Yes. I am sold. There are a lot of good bumpers out there but I like the look of this one and feel good about the quality.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:37 PM   #22
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I just installed the Rock Slide Engineering rear in aluminum. It is deceptively light, but seems really strong. I have already dropped some heavy stuff on it by accident, no dents or nothing. It was also dropped and slid across a concrete floor (not by me!) and only the paint was slightly scratched (new paint already on), the rear itself was perfect.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:51 PM   #23
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I just installed the Rock Slide Engineering rear in aluminum. It is deceptively light, but seems really strong. I have already dropped some heavy stuff on it by accident, no dents or nothing. It was also dropped and slid across a concrete floor (not by me!) and only the paint was slightly scratched (new paint already on), the rear itself was perfect.
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:06 PM   #24
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There's more misinformation and uninformed people in this thread than there is the opposite.

Aluminum used in offroad armor and bumper applications is nothing new. Those in the know have been doing it for years and these types of discussions have been going on for just as long. Go to some of the toughest offroad events in the world and you'll see tons of aluminum being used in all types of applications.

If you don't think it's a suitable material for armor and bumpers on Jeeps that are used on the toughest trails in the world, you don't know what you're talking about. That's not meant to offend anyone, it's simply a statement from someone with a fair bit of experience and education in materials science and one who deals with fatigue and fracture testing of aluminum every day.

If you'd like to learn more, the information is out there and isn't tough to find. You can read for hours upon hours on this exact subject and as long as you have an average IQ, you'll appreciate what aluminum has to offer over steel.

My personal TJ has full aluminum corners, aluminum sliders, an aluminum belly skid, aluminum steering box skid, aluminum front bumper/winch mount, aluminum fuel cell, aluminum control arms, and a few other odds and ends. The weight savings over comparable steel items is significant and the level of protection is virtually identical.
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:52 PM   #25
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OP another option for front bumper if your looking for a light bumper but not sold on aluminum yet would be the the LOD armorlite I have an armorlite mid and can highly recommend it. paired with a winch that has a synthetic line and you have a pretty light yet strong combo.
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:20 AM   #26
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OP another option for front bumper if your looking for a light bumper but not sold on aluminum yet would be the the LOD armorlite I have an armorlite mid and can highly recommend it. paired with a winch that has a synthetic line and you have a pretty light yet strong combo.
Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check that out.
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:25 AM   #27
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Old 05-22-2014, 11:31 AM   #28
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Ever wonder why Warn uses aluminum for their winch bodies and mounting bases? Cause it's strong. This horse is dead. I am moving on. LOL

Commodore. Enjoy that new aluminum bumper. I have no doubt that you will love it.
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Old 05-22-2014, 03:33 PM   #29
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I'm no metalurgist, but do know from my work as a gunsmith that aluminum soaked in water gets weaker. Don't ask me how...!!
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Old 06-01-2014, 12:59 AM   #30
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I'm no metalurgist, but do know from my work as a gunsmith that aluminum soaked in water gets weaker. Don't ask me how...!!
I work on the water - Salt water. There are a lot of vessels out here made of aluminum. I'm not talking about little skiffs, john boats and canoes either. I see some serious working boats, and ships made from the stuff. A lot of it doesn't get painted and works fine. You see the surface oxidation, but that is a very thin layer.

I'm going to build a front bumper for my TJ, starting with two Aluminum I-beams, then add on some thinner aluminum to give it shape and other functional attributes.

I've been looking around to see what's out there and think I can come up with something more in tune for what I need. When I get started, I'll do a build thread so everybody and their neighbor can tell me what I'm doing wrong, or what I should do next.

Till then, keep this thread going.

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